David Brenner is a very busy man. Aside from co-running heavy music PR goliath Earsplit (seriously, consider that insane roster) and playing in perennial Toilet faves Theologian, Brenner has just completed Ensuring the Bloodline Ends Here (streaming at Noisey), his first album under the name Gridfailure. Brenner was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the album via email.
How did Ensuring the Bloodline Ends Here come about and how did that experience differ from the way you work in Theologian?
Well Theologian is not my band, rather it’s the project of Lee Bartow, aka, Theologian Prime. Lee is a friend of mine out here north of NYC, and he resides just over the mountain from me, and while we were just dicking-off with delinquent Summertime activities last year he invited me in for a jam with himself and other fellow collaborator, Daniel Suffering. This led to my full-time participation with the project since then, and was my first foray into performing power electronics/industrial music at all; I’ve not been in an active band since 2001, and I’ve only been in more punk, hardcore, metal/grind bands prior to this. Since working with Theologian I’ve been recording here at The Compound for use in the band’s releases; Lee then engineers the Theologian material. Within this process, I began amassing tons of caustic runoff material, much of it set for deletion. So in February I started importing some of these sounds into Audacity and other types of manipulation software, simply learning how to use music software – I had no forethought that these trials would be going further than this process. These movements began to take on attributes resembling songs, and before I knew it there were several somewhat constructed pieces before me, beginning to morph into a sound of their own. I began recording new material which fit with some of these movements, and suddenly I was fully engulfed in creating this entirely new entity. Deciding I’d just classify it something, I dug through my files of random band name/song title ideas I’ve amassed for years since being in any active bands and the term “Grid Failure” popped out at me and stuck… And here we are.
While Theologian is fully a dark ambient/industrial band, and the songs are under Lee’s direction, with Gridfailure I have zero boundaries, so any stupid idea I have can become an album… as proven with Ensuring The Bloodline Ends Here – in February this band didn’t exist, and in early April I finished the record, and I’m already heavily entrenched in creating the follow-up. I use a lot of instruments and don’t really think of it as any specific style. The first album has a definite dark ambient vibe to it since the bulk of its source material was crafted in that sense. But with all upcoming titles, I’ll do whatever comes to mind or explore whatever path I happen upon. Expect way more of hardcore/punk vibe to invade the Gridfailure sound, more tribal/primitive percussion, a lot of occult/ritual sacrifice stuff, more folk music and clean vocal exploration… I’ll record with virtually any instrument I can get my hands on, and try just about anything.
My recording room is a half-garage with wood paneling and a window. So sometimes the recording of weather happens right there, with mics aimed directly out the window into the storm, with EFX loops hot. I use a Sound City 120 head that weighs as much as I do, pumping through 4×10 and 1×15 cabinets in this tiny room, so whether I’m recording super loud or barely on, crazy sounds go down in there. I’m pretty sure I sawed boards in half through an EFX loop on there, I recorded vocals inside a box, strapped contact mics to violins… all kinds of ill shit. And most of it was doused by the manipulation of six to like fifteen pedals and all sorts of tomfoolery before I even got to the mixing phase.
The album’s press release lists a dozen or so instruments used in the recording process, as well as “other components not limited to incineration, bizarre weather systems, tools, and mammals.” Please elaborate on how you put the album together, and, uh, especially on that last part about mammals.
I’ll use anything that sounds good or makes sense, or doesn’t sound good or make sense but creates some sort of vision or horrifying imagery I want to exploit. My primary tools of choice are bass and harsh vocals, but within the sessions that would become the first record I was experimenting with countless forms of acoustic and electronically-created percussion, several different styles of keyboards, endless effects rigs/electronic setups, field recordings of nature and manmade noises, and over a dozen other instruments including drums, harmonica, violins, guitars, chimes, and other random fodder. A very peculiar freezing rain storm, an incredible Wintertime thunderstorm, damaging windstorms, and other weather patterns I captured are present on the album. There are indeed several varieties of faunae captured and explored on the album, but could it be a clever marketing tactic hoping listeners wonder what mammals were sacrificially harvested within the depths of the record? The only mammal harmed in the creation of this album was myself [referencing, in some cases, the use of tools, incarnation, illness, etc. within in its production] so fear not. But I do prefer to retain some secrecy to my formulas and operations, so let your ears and imaginations run wild with visions of riding unicorns bareback amidst primate species struggling through the utopian wastelands out here in Gridfailure country.
Though the tracks on this album are all instrumental or contain vocals heavily obscured by effects, each feels intrinsically linked to the others. Does this album have any sort of central theme or concept?
As the album was actually only conceived after it was already under construction in a very Frankensteinian way, no forethought was given to a theme, yet as the album progressed, more darkness poured forth from within the crevasses of my psyche, and the theme of the album became apparent to me. Extermination. It’s too late for me, it’s too late for you… we’re past the expiration date on the human race and we’re really starting to emanate a foul stench across the globe. This is a simply a caustic byproduct of humanity, not my stab at forecasting prophecies. To make a reference most humans will process, simply open your windows and smell the poisoned air while watching the world fall apart on every television channel and you’ll see that Gridfailure is like the band on the deck of the Titanic in its final moments before plummeting to its bleak demise, only the orchestra members are reanimated corpses and deranged warlock mutants performing paint-peeling auditory cancer on instruments fashioned from cruise passengers themselves through Sound City 120s and full stacks, while half of the band punctures additional holes in the hull of the ship. There are full lyrics for at least half of the album–most of the more direct, punishing rants, not as much with the ethereal voice elements and background vocal layers. The album follows a demise of a human/humans in many ways; the titles, lyrics, art/layout, and band moniker itself are littered with countless metaphors and obfuscated facets of reality, but in the end the goal is just myself trying to capitalize on your monetary units to further fund my laboratory’s dreadful code of contamination.
Readers of this blog are no strangers to the work of H.P. Lovecraft or his influence on some of our favorite music. Can you tell us about Theologian’s soundtrack work for Cadabra Record’s series of Lovecraft-centered records? How has Lovecraft’s writing influenced your music?
Gridfailure is not directly inspired by Lovecraft, but I suppose certainly does come forth from within darker realms of the human psyche much like his works. That said, this album, and Gridfailure itself, were conceived amidst the creation of at least three Theologian recordings for Cadabra Records’ ongoing series. The label focuses on the spoken arts, combining the talents of professional stage and screen actors, readers and writers from the upper echelon of the literary horror world, and top-notch quality materials, delivering the works of renowned horror authors in a really fantastic and frightening way. Theologian is now scoring all of the label’s titles, which are heavily focused on Lovecraft and other legendary writers; the first one to see release is the Inferno 7” which features a batch of poems by Clark Ashton Smith, seeing the author’s works being delivered in audio format for the first time ever, and sees leading Lovecraft/horror expert S.T. Joshi reading on record for the first time as well. We’ve already completed scoring the upcoming The Lurking Fear and Pickman’s Model LPs, which will both see release this year, and there are many other Lovecraft and other writers’ works being slated for production over the coming months for release into next year, the series to go on for quite some time.
What details can you share about the upcoming Theologian album Contrapasso? What’s next for Gridfailure?
I’ll offer very little direct intel on Contrapasso; only that it’s going to be quite wretched, and will be released later this year. Now that we’ve wrapped up production on some of the aforementioned Cadabra titles, as well as our collaborative album with Oakland-based Lament Cityscape, Contrapasso will be a priority in the coming weeks. More on all of these releases will be issued shortly.
As for Gridfailure, I’m going to keep waiting for the townspeople to show up with pitchforks and torches to lead me to the gallows, but in the meantime I’ll work on a video for one of the songs on Ensuring The Bloodline Ends Here and just continue to see where that album goes. I’ve already got the entire concept for the follow-up album in place – yes, this album is being PLANNED, so it’s happening very differently than Ensuring… did – and I’m laying down a lot of material for that as we speak, and have been since the first album was completed. The next album will be constructed by myself, but unlike Ensuring…, which was 100% my doing, the second record will infuse contributions from a wide cast of kin, allies, artists, and other humans who have offered their support to these unorthodox trials and experiments, so I foresee the dementia level of the album will raise right through the roof and punch an extra vortex through the ozone. That will see release later this year–we’ll either release it on The Compound again, as with Ensuring…, or perhaps I’ll woo some top-level record executives and sign a blood pact with somebody bearing fat stacks in their pockets. I may precede the record with a random EP. There are also several collaborative and split titles in the devising stages, so I expect to release at least two or three more titles this year in one format or another. Gridfailure is also in the process of mutating into a live entity; I’m booking my first shows for late this Summer, either as a solo act or alongside fellow collaborators.
Any final words for our readers?
I am thankful and indebted to thee Toilet’s staff for the support on this very new venture, and I extend salutes to anybody out there on the grid reading this or digging around on any of the band sites [Facebook, Bandcamp, The Compound, etc.]. I invite seekers of noncompliant exploratory auditory decimation to observe this faction in action as I take it to the streets live and forge new works in the bleak months ahead. Arm yourselves. Dig a hole. SEND MONEY.
Gridfailure’s Ensuring The Bloodline Ends Here is out now on The Compound. Stream or purchase it below: